Communism and Conscience;
Pentecost and Paradox



by Edwin C. Walker (1849?-1931)

When it is seen that those who speak for the new society also establish it wherever they are, then the ranks of oppression and inequity break and straggle; when it is seen that those who speak for the new society are less regardful of the comfort and rights of others than are the best in the old society, then the ranks of oppression and inequity re-aline [sic] and advance anew to battle. He that cries against externally-enforced order carries complete conviction only when he ceases to create disorder by discourtesy, tumult, and greater invasions. I can have little faith in the professed love of liberty of one who denies to me the opportunity to hear what he or she does not care to hear, just as I can have little faith in the professions of the Censor who denies to me the opportunity to read what he does not care to read. “We learn to do by doing.”

––––– May I treat you as I please against your “No”? –––––


. . . So it is with liberty. It is fatal or life-giving, according to the use made of it. Is it liberty still, when it is the prerogative of criminals or heedless blunderers? Liberty is an atmosphere of the higher life, and it is only by a slow and patient inward transformation that one becomes capable of breathing it.
All life must have its law, the life of man so much the more than that of inferior beings, in that it is more precious and of nicer adjustment. This law for man is in the first place an external law, but it may become an internal law. When man has once recognized the inner law, and bowed before it, through this reverence and voluntary submission he is ripe for liberty – so long as there is no vigorous and sovereign inner law he is incapable of breathing its air; for he will be drunken with it, maddened, morally slain. The man who guides his life by inner law can no more live servile to outward authority than can the full-grown bird live imprisoned in the eggshell. But the man who has not yet attained to governing himself can no more live under the law of liberty than can the unfledged bird live without its protective covering. These things are terribly simple, and the series of demonstrations, old and new, that proves them, increases daily under our eyes. And yet we are as far as ever from understanding even the elements of this important law. In our democracy, how many are there, great and small, who know, from having personally verified it, lived it, and obeyed it, this truth without which a people is incapable of governing itself? Liberty? – it is respect; liberty? – it is obedience to the inner law; and this law is neither the good pleasure of the mighty nor the caprice of the crowd, but the high and impersonal rule before which those who govern are the first to bow the head. Shall liberty, then, be proscribed? No; but men must be made capable and worthy of it, otherwise public life becomes impossible, and the nation, undisciplined and unrestrained, goes on through license into the inextricable tangles of demagoguery. – Rev. Charles Wagner, in “The Simple Life.”
I would amend these trenchant sentences only by substituting for “license,” which is misleading, “denial of equal liberty or neglect to safeguard it and defend its use.”


––––– We must indorse our promises by our actions. –––––

––––– My rights rest on yours and yours on mine. –––––

By Morals or Ethic, I mean the doctrine of a special kind of pleasure or displeasure which is felt by the human mind in contemplating certain courses of conduct, whereby they are felt to be right or wrong, and of a special desire to do the right things and avoid the wrong ones. The pleasure or displeasure is commonly called the moral sense; the corresponding desire might be called the moral appetite. These are facts, existing in the consciousness of every man who need be considered in this discussion, and sufficiently marked out by these names; they need no further definition. In the same way, the sense of taste is a feeling of pleasure or displeasure in things savory or unsavory, and is associated with a desire for the one and a repulsion from the other. We must assume that everybody knows what these word mean; the feelings they describe may be analyzed or accounted for, but they can not be more exactly defined as feelings. – Prof. William Kingdon Clifford, in “The Scientific Basis of Morals.” [Online editor’s note: English mathematician and philosopher (1845-1879). – RTL]
After all, we admit, to whatever school we belong, that crime is mischievous, and, whatever deeper meaning may be assigned to it, may be considered in that light by the legislator. He can not – certainly he ought not to – forbid actions which do no harm to anybody, or which nobody at the time and place, feels to be injurious to happiness. Even, therefore, if utilitarianism be unsatisfactory as an ultimate theory, it may represent adequately the point of view of the practical legislator. He tries to suppress violence and fraud because, as a fact, they cause what their victims unanimously agree to be painful consequences; and he need not look any further for a reason. People, it is said, have very different standards of pleasure. Still, we all dislike having our throats cut or our pockets picked; and that fact supplies a sufficient ground upon which to base the whole [legitimate] criminal law. – Leslie Stephen, in “Social Rights and Duties.” [Online editor’s note: English philosopher, 1832-1904. – RTL]

––––– Liberty is the opportunity to correct mistakes. –––––


[Online editor’s note: All variance between headers in this table of contents and headers in the text sic. – RTL]

The Law of Liberty
Definitions by CLIFFORD and STEPHEN
Fashionable to Deny Natural Rights
SPENCER on the Scope of Evolution
Rights of Children
Increasing Complexity of Life
Interdependence of Individual and Society
Close Connection with the Past
The Boycott; Its Relation to Liberty
The Paradox Is Uncertain
The “Right to Invade”
Liberty and Responsibility
“Free Will,” Necessity, and Defense
The People the Source of Invasion
Conscience: What It Is, What It Does
Undiscriminating Rejection of Morality
Changing Names and Institutions
The All-Is-Good Discovery
WHITMAN a Reformer
Defensive Association
“Right” and “Might”
The Secular Principle
Vicarious Atonement
We Are in Nature; We Are Natural
Property Rights
What Is Evolution?

Suggestive, Not Dogmatic
What We Are Not Considering
Two Stages in the Study
How Should We Act Toward the Anti-Social?
Gain in the Direction of Humanity
Six Important Rules to Guide Social Action
Relative Values of Deterrents
Capital Punishment
“Labor,” and Labor in Prisons
The Principle of Restitution
Reason Guides from the Old to the New
Tradition and Reason
                    PENTECOST AND PARADOX.
Note. – As written at first, this paper was read at the Manhattan Liberal Club, Friday evening, May 27, 1904. It has been considerably extended for printing in The Truth Seeker and publication in pamphlet form.
CC.9 It has become fashionable in certain quarters to deny the existence of natural rights, to assert baldly the supremacy of might; or, at best, to postulate social rights only; that is to say, rights acquired alone by the sane adult member of the community or of the state. Many Communists, many Anarchists, and many who are neither Communists nor Anarchists, unite in saying there is no natural basis for human rights. Thus denying that the germ-rights of men and women are in nature, these persons in effect deny that the processes of evolution include the development of the perception and recognition of right and wrong in human relations. They in effect affirm that in so far as there is in theory and practice a recognition of the right of the not-me to life, liberty, and opportunity, that recognition is extra-natural, extra-human, extra-cosmic – in short, supernatural. Probably all the persons who take this position accept the modern scientific view of the development of life on this planet. They are convinced that the body of man has been evolved from much more simple organisms, by almost inconceivably slow gradations through very long periods of time. In the face of this acceptance, are they prepared to contend that our emotions, including love, sympathy, and the sense of at-one-ness with our fellows, and our intellect, are not natural in origin, have not been and are not now subject to and modified by the great evolutionary process? In a word, will they deny that man is a unity, will they claim that he is a duality or a trinity; that while his body is natural, his intellect and his emotions are extra-natural?

Since this paper was outlined, and so much of it written, some hitherto unpublished letters of Herbert Spencer have been printed. In one of these, referring to Huxley’s “Evolution and Ethics,” Mr. Spencer says:

“Practically his view is a surrender of the general doctrine of evolution in so far as its higher applications are concerned, and is pervaded by the ridiculous assumption that in its application to the organic world it is limited to the struggle for existence among individuals under its ferocious aspects, and has nothing to do with the development of social organization or the modifications of the human mind that take place in the course of that organization.”
CC.11 Again:

“The position he takes, that we have to struggle against or correct the cosmic process, involves the assumption that there exists something in us which is not a product of the cosmic process, and is practically a going back to the old theological notions which put man and nature in antithesis. Any rational, comprehensive view of evolution involves that in the course of social evolution the human mind is disciplined into that form which itself puts a check upon that part of the cosmic process which consists in the unqualified struggle for existence.”
CC.12 In a postscript he says:

“The essential point of the reply [to Huxley] might take the form of a question: If that in us which is to oppose and correct the cosmic process is not itself a product of the cosmic process, whence does it come?”
CC.13 Similarly, if our ineradicable sense that it is well to act in one way and not well to act in another way, be not natural in its origin and development, what is its source? If our rights are not natural, whence do they come? Or, if we have no rights, natural or other, why this insistent protest and rage against restriction and cruelty? If this sense of right and wrong is not natural, it is supernatural; and if you assert it is supernatural, then it is incumbent on you to prove to us when and where and how you got outside of nature and became possessed of your exclusive information.
CC.14 The assumption that there are no natural rights, that there are only social rights, at most, grows out of strange forgetfulness of the fact that all we are, in body, in emotions, in mind, in morals, in social life, is natural. If we have social rights, they are natural rights, for society is natural, is a part of nature, as it is composed of individuals who are natural, who are parts of nature. Man with all his intellect and his ethics and complex society is just as natural, because just as much a part of nature, as was his ancestor, the monad in the ancient sea. In asserting that while the adult has rights, the child has none, the asserter loses sight of the fact that the difference between the child and the adult is one of degree only, not of kind. The adult is a modified and improved child – sometimes – that is all. If the child, lacking the average adult’s capacity to contract, has no social rights, in other words, no natural rights, then it logically follows that the social rights of adults vary in the direct ratio of the difference in their several capacities to contract with advantage to themselves. The child knows something, but not so much as the average adult; therefore, say certain thinkers, the child has no rights; it is the property of the parents, to be treated and disposed of as they see fit. That sounds plausible to some. But suppose we go just one step farther, suppose we say: The average adult knows something, but not so much as the extra-intelligent adult, the exceptionally gifted few; therefore, the average adult has no rights, he is the property of the unusually bright and cunning, to be treated and disposed of as they see fit. There being a difference of degree only between the child and the average adult, and between the average adult and the exceptional adult, why all this heat of the protagonist of migt about oppression and robbery? Why do the propounders of the “child-has-no-rights” theory so indignantly and vituperatively denounce the few astute exploiters who out the “no-rights” dictum into practice against the less keen-thoughted masses?

“Rights” are “necessities” written in another way. Necessities change, and so rights change in nature. Each organism has the right to full development because that full development is necessary to it as an organism. But all organisms cannot maintain this right. Through the unending ages there has been constant conflict between this species and that, between this race and that, between this nation and that, between this group and that, between this individual and that. The conflict that, in what we call the inorganic world, was one of chemical attraction and repulsion, became more and more complex as the eons rolled away. In organic life the primary sense of touch was followed by its modifications, its specializations, taste, smell, sex, hearing, sights, and their syntheses in intellect and morals. Here and there arose, and gradually developed, what I call the sense of “at-one-ness” among the units of like forms. To some extent, sympathy and helpfulness took the places of hatred and conflict. Here were the beginnings if family exclusiveness and fealty, of tribal loyalty, of race cohesiveness, of national patriotism, which long have been parts of the heritage of humanity. Very, very much later came the idea of human solidarity, of which we little more than dream even yet, but which transcends and will swallow up all the others, as we believe and hope, to leave only individuals knowing neither family – in the exclusive sense – nor tribe, nor nation, nor race.

In the course of this double evolution, the development of the individual and of social relations, it long ago was perceived that they were independent, that the better the society the better the individuals, the better the individuals the better the society. A tyrannous society was inimical to the growth and happiness of the individual. Aggressive, greedy, unfeeling individuals directly injured their fellows, and indirectly stunted and robbed them by changing for the worse the customs and laws of the society. So it came to be seen that the right of one individual to grow was no more and no less than the right of another individual to grow; that the necessity of growth was a common necessity, and the conditions of growth were to be ascertained and conserved by all for all. If the necessities of two individuals or of two nations came into apparent or actual conflict, the matter at issue should be submitted to arbitration. If the king thought he must bathe in human blood each morning, his right, his necessity, could not be permitted to overbear the rights, the necessities, of those who were asked to supply the blood. The rights of all, including the king, must be equal; that is to say, each must be free to refuse to sacrifice himself for another or for others. That is what I mean by equal rights, which are natural rights, summing up in the right of self-preservation. If, unfortunately, an individual thinks he can not preserve himself save by intrusion, he must expect to meet the separate and combined opposition of all whose right not to be sacrificed may be jeoparded by his intrusion. And as human experience shows that some men will intrude, singly or collectively, it is the right of men to combine, in advance or after the fact, for the prevention of such intrusion as is threatened or the assessment of damages for such intrusion as has taken place. In this defensive and restitutionary action, the method of arbitration is best, but does not exclude other methods if arbitration be refused by the aggressors. Having the right singly to resist intrusion, the individuals combining have the right to resist it by joining hands.

The past is ours, no less than the present; we may think we cut loose from some special form of its politics, its religion, its morals, its economics, but ours is the latest touch only, not the only touch, not the last touch. We think we have cut loose, but never may we be sure. We may have done so, individually, and our children may revert to the past, for their heredity is that of the race, and that which was back of the human race; they are ours in only a minutely small part. All changes are very gradual in fact, whatever they may be in seeming. A little is added year by year, age by age, as to a cathedral which was centuries building. Disturbances of order, interruptions of industrial production, violence to the peaceful life of the people, whether chargeable to the individual thief, assaulter, or murderer, to feuds and vendettas, or to warring nations, are the stigmata of barbarism, of imperfect civilization, and the sure although slow march of mankind is away from them. We see more and more clearly that war concerns nations besides those in conflict; that the clan feud is not the affair merely of the hereditary enemies, and that physical quarrels between and among individuals have effects beyond the persons directly involved. Arbitration is the keynote of the future. The Dodo is dead, and the private satisfaction of revenge is going the way to like extinction. “Agree with thine adversary quickly,” or submit your case to the defense association. You have no right to imperil peaceful lives in a street battle of feudists, or by firing the tenement in which your enemy has his home. You have no right to paralyze the industry of a city, state, or nation by obstinate strikes or obstinate lockouts. You have no right to sow the waters of neutral seas with contact mines.

The much-mooted question of the boycott must have a few words here. The boycott is neither invasive nor non-invasive, neither right nor wrong, per se. All depends on the circumstances. If A is enforcing a Sunday law, for instance, an individual or a collective boycott of his business is permissible as an act of defense, for his act is an invasion of the right of his neighbors to do non-invasive acts on Sunday. But if A is boycotted, by an individual, or a number of individuals acting in unison, because he belongs to a certain church, lodge, or union, or does not belong thereto, or because he sells goods to a person not liked by the boycotter or boycotters, or because he rides on a car owned by a corporation under the ban of the boycotters, none of which acts is invasive, then freedom of thought, speech, and non-invasive action is invaded by those who boycott him. In a word, any boycott which is not in reprisal for invasive actions is itself invasive, an act of bigotry, of intolerance, is wrong in theory and anti-social and destructive in its effects.
CC.19 It is objected that my affirmation, “any boycott which is not in reprisal for invasive actions is itself invasive,” does not square with the principle of equal liberty, and contradicts the axiom, “what several persons rightfully may do singly, they rightfully may do in association.” [Online editor’s note: this argument in defense of boycotts was made by Benjamin Tucker in The Boycott and Its Limit. – RTL] The critic is mistaken. The principle of equal liberty stands. The axiom stands. My affirmation stands. They stand together, unshaken and unshakable.
CC.20 I rightfully may do in association with another what I rightfully may do alone. The negative form of this is: I may not rightfully do in association what I may not rightfully do alone. I may not alone rightfully injure you wantonly. Hence, I may not in association with others rightfully injure you wantonly. I injure you wantonly if I am not resisting an invasive action of yours. Hence, we injure you wantonly if we are not resisting an invasive action of yours. I am injuring you wantonly if my act furthers my intention to injure you because of an action of yours which is not invasive. Hence, we are injuring you wantonly if our act furthers our intention to injure you because of an action of yours which is not invasive. The key to the situation is the intention, as every student of criminal jurisprudence knows. The intention that does not eventuate in action is null, but the intention that does eventuate in action is active, and it is invasive, that is, criminal, if the action with which it is associated purposely injures one who is not guilty of invasion in the issue involved.
CC.21 The source of the confusion in the minds of those who defend the boycotting of non-invading persons is easily discoverable. Starting from the axiom, “What several persons rightfully ay do singly, they rightfully may do in association,” the defenders of the invasive boycott plunge at once into the morass of collective tyranny through failure to take into account the element of intention and to reckon with the very practical question of evidence. A may quit trading with B for any one of a score of reasons, without an intention to injure B, or he may quit trading with B because he wishes to injure him. In either case, it is almost impossible to prove his intention by his action alone; unless he talks, the assumption well may be that he likes C’s goods better, or gets them at a slightly lower price, or on more favorable credit, or that the service is better than at B’s. And so on. But if he goes about and induces other men to join in a boycott, especially if they avow an intention to destroy B’s business unless he complies with their demand that he abandon a course of action which is not invasive, then the intent to injure a non-invading person, which is a criminal intent, is apparent (often it is widely and boastingly declared), and can be established legally when it eventuates in the injurious action threatened. The axiom stands; the escape of A when acting alone and his conviction when acting in association with others is due to the impossibility of proving his intention to injure a non-invading person in the first instance and the ease with which it was proved in the second instance. He was guilty of malicious mischief in both cases. For the same reason that he escaped when boycotting individually, he probably would escape if he went quietly on a dark night and cut down D’s vines, while he would be pretty sure of detection and conviction if he went in the daytime with a brass band and wielded his knife to the same end. It is a question of proof, always, as regards alike the act and the intention which inspires the act.
CC.22 So it happens that the invasive boycotter acting alone will usually escape, if he keeps a still tongue in his head, while he will get himself into trouble if he combines with others for the same malicious purpose. The nature of his relation to his victim has not been altered by combination with a hundred or a thousand more men, and by their threats against the man who will not do as they demand, but that combination and threatening has revealed his and the others’ intention to injure; which intention, culminating in action, is invasive, is criminal, unless the action which the intention precedes or accompanies is necessary in defense against invasion by the one whom the boycotters injure. And no one should have to say that B does not invade if he sells goods to E when forbidden by A so to do. That is self-evident to all who are not thick-and-thin partisans.
CC.23 We are told that it is preposterous to hold that A is amenable for an offense against liberty and equity because, not wishing to buy goods of B, he acts according to his desire. But the issue is not what he does to himself, but what he does against B. No one questions his right to act as he desires, so long as his action is not an attempt to punish B for acting uninvasively as he desires. B cannot be left out of the equation. This is the vital point lost sight of by all who take the position assumed by my critic. Could anything be more preposterous than the claim that it is equitable for A and his associates to punish B because B, having goods he desires to market, sells them to E, who desires to buy them? What becomes of the personal; and property rights of B and E if they may thus, without recourse, be despoiled of both? What existing legal government commits a greater crime of its kind?
CC.24 The boycotting of men and women because they do not join certain secular organizations, or because they maintain amicable relations with other men and women who are under the ban of these organizations, is on all fours with the boycotts maintained in old ties by the church against all who doubted its creeds or failed to affiliate with its membership. In some quarters now, as then everywhere that the church ruled, for the non-conformist “every door is shut, very knife is open.”
CC.25 Here is an example of the invasive boycott in operation: Isaac Platt, a retail druggist of Chicago, declined to join the National Association of Retail Druggists for the reason that he wished to retain his liberty to compete with the cut-price department stores. “As an independent druggist, ” he writes, “I felt I had the right to do as I pleased with my own property, even to giving it away had I felt so inclined.” The National Association, numbering about 25,000, combining with the jobbers, some of whom were forced to enter into the agreement t save themselves, sent to the jobbers every two weeks black lists of druggists who refused to sell at the prices fixed by the association. Mr. Platt, denied supplies by the jobbers, and having to get what he could through friends, at great inconvenience and expense, in November, 1892, secured an injunction against the jobbers, restraining them from refusing to sell him goods, and against the National Association, restraining it from interfering with his business and from blacklisting him by circular, letter, or otherwise. The injunction was secretly violated by the association, and Mr. Platt, having secured convincing proof of the violation, on August 30, 1904, Judge Dunne fined the association for contempt of court, assessing $2.000 against the association and $500 against its secretary.
CC.26 The essential elements in this transaction are the same as those in all other invasive boycotts: A man elects to dispose of his time, property, labor, or other possession or power in an uninvasive manner. His liberty and opportunity to do so are interfered with by another man or by a number of men whose intention is to injure his as a punishment for his failure to conduct himself as they desired instead of as he desired himself. The question arising, Is he entitled to all the protection that other equitable and liberty-loving men can accord him? the answer is, Yes. Not to defend him to the utmost is to turn back toward the lowest type of savage society.
CC.27 There is almost everywhere a woful lack of comprehension of the principles underlying free and peaceful social life. To illustrate: Trade unionists demand that only unionists shall be employed in government offices and workshops, by cities and states and contractors doing work for these, and by private manufacturers, thus in effect saying that only unionists have citizen rights. On the other side, as in Colorado, associations of non-unionists, aided by the military, drive out of the state the members of unions, thus in effect saying that only non-unionists have citizen rights. Neither party to the quarrel makes any serious attempt to get at the sources of admitted evils or to respect the equal citizen rights of all men and women.

In criticising paradoxes, or what seem to be paradoxes, and startling epigrams, one always has the feeling that he may be hunting for trouble and may find it ambushed in waiting for him. The apparent paradox may be truth or it may be the opposite of truth. The thought may have been stated in paradoxical form in order to bring out the antithesis of that which appeared on its face. Its propounder may have been, “in fun,” fishing for the unwary, or he may have been all wrong in his reasoning and therefore in deadly earnest. So the critic may be met either with a disclaimer or with an argument in defense of the paradox. I am assuming the perfect seriousness of those from whom I quote; the amenities of discussion demand that one err on that side if he must err on either.

At a Radical Club meeting A. Isaak stood stoutly for the asserted “right to invade and take the consequences.” Mr. Pentecost on the platform unqualifiedly indorsed the position of Mr. Isaak, and going out of the hall said to me, in reply to an objection, “It is not wrong to pick pockets; if you make it so, where will you stop short of Comstock?” [Online editor’s note: Abraham Isaak, editor of the anarchist journals Firebrand (suppressed in 1897 under the Comstock Law) and Free Society; Hugh O. Pentecost, editor of another anarchist periodical, The Twentieth Century; Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), influential crusader for censorship of “obscene” materials (including information on birth control), who often clashed with the radical libertarians of his era, Walker included. – RTL.] Another, in private conversation, evidently referring to organized defense, exclaimed: “Why not say ‘restraint’ and be done with it?”
CC.30 “If you make it wrong to pick pockets where will you stop short of Comstock?” Inasmuch as the pickpocket and Comstock alike steal books, Mr. Pentecost’s question has a point not intended by him. Neither the censor nor the pickpocket has a right to steal books, whether pocketbooks or printed books; you or I have the right to resist such theft; you and I have the right to combine to resist such theft, and to restrain the thieves, if necessary.
CC.31 But Mr. Pentecost meant that if we begin by resisting the pickpocket on the ground that it is wrong to steal pocketbooks – Mr. Pentecost would resist him on impulse, I have no doubt – we shall end by joining with Comstock in a censorship of literature and art on the ground that circulation of certain kinds of books and pictures is wrong. The implication is that drawing the line between defense and aggression is a task too difficult for our poor brains. The secondary implication is that we should not attempt anything which is difficult. Analysis, discrimination, and classification, being difficult, we should never attempt to analyze, discriminate, and classify. That is the gist of Mr. Pentecost’s arguments against listing pickpockets as intruders. Don’t try to walk three miles an hour, for you can’t walk ten miles an hour, and if you could it might kill you. Don’t try to drink a gill [Online editor’s note: ¼ pint. – RTL]of water at one sitting, for the success of the attempt might lead you to try to drink a hundred gallons in the same time, and that would have disastrous effects. Don’t eat apples, because toadstools are poisonous. Don’t seize the rein of the drunken truck-driver’s horse to keep him from running over you, because that first mistake might tempt you to sandbag or arrest the editor for advertising the truck-company’s business. In a word, don’t discriminate; it is a sort of intellectual gymnastics that may result in making you a Napoleon or Torquemada.
CC.32 If there are no rights, why talk of “the right to invade”? Why all this anger against government, [if] every one of those evil acts against which you declaim is an act of invasion? Why lose your temper in talking about governments, and the doings of government officials, if it is “right to invade”? Why not serenely accept the crimes of government as “good” to-day, unsuspiciously trusting we may have a different kind of “good” to-morrow?
CC.33 If I have the “right” to invade, what is the “right” of Mr. Isaak to resist me? Can two bodies occupy the same place at the same time? Can two mutually exclusive “rights” coexist? While denying all rights, you affirm the right to invade, certainly the least salutary of rights, were it a right. Why this favoritism shown to the most hurtful?
CC.34 The “right” to invade involves the right to combine to invade; that is to say, to organize companies of bandits, gangs of burglars, and other governments. What several persons rightly may do singly, they rightfully may do in association. You affirm the “right to invade”; therefore, you affirm the right of the government to invade. And some of you who say this call yourselves Anarchists!
CC.35 “Invade and take the consequences”? It is no merit to take consequences you cannot escape, and there is no responsibility if you escape the consequences. It is not “invade and take the consequences,” it is not liberty and responsibility, if you take no more than the risk of detection. If one invades and goes scot free, that is not invasion and “consequences,” but invasion and evasion.
CC.36 A man murders. The consequence? Detection and extinction. So his “liberty to invade” is nullified, extinguished, in the act by which it was asserted. He is not detected and punished. Then he does not “take the consequences,” he has no responsibility. So the formula is unworkable, in either event. If the man escapes by luck or trick, how is the result of the Communist ethic different from the result of the ethic of to-day, by which the “exploiter” escapes by luck or trick; a condition concerning which the Communist can find nothing too bad to say?
CC.37 “Invade and take the consequences?” As though invasion and acceptance of “the consequences” were inseparable? A woman puts poison in the food of her rival and kills her. She exercises her “right to invade”; her unsuspecting victim takes the consequences. A man communicates syphilis to a woman. He has exercised his precious right to invade; she and her children, if subsequently she have children, “take the consequences.” “The right to invade and take the consequences”? It is the right of indiscrimination, of inconsequence[.]
CC.38 “But what consequences would there be under restricted or ‘equal liberty’ if he [the offender] is not found out?” it is asked. In so far as you have crime, individual or collective, you have practical denial of liberty. Of course, it is admitted that some intruders will escape under any system, that no principle of association is capable of perfect, unerring application; but imperfect application is not denial of the right of association for defense. Failure to hold some invaders to a practical responsibility for their assaults and spoliations is something entirely different from laying it down as a principle of action that an injurer of his fellow has committed no wrong, that invasion is only a dream. It is one thing for a thug to maim you and escape the legitimate consequences of his act; it is quite another thing to make it a rule of social action that his maiming you has no legitimate consequences if he can dodge detection or overpower defense. It is one thing to admit that it is difficult to secure equal liberty; it is a far different matter to assert that liberty and crime can occupy the same place at the same time, that you have “unrestricted” liberty, “absolute” liberty, when and because you have verbal denial of the existence of invasion, of crime. And if you scout “equal liberty,” equal liberty and security guaranteed and defended by agreement and association, is it not clear that you stand for unequal liberty, the liberty of the conscienceless strong man, devoid of sympathy, and the sense of fair play?
CC.39 You speak of a man who has injured his fellow, escaping all consequences save the lashing of “his own conscience.” But if he has the right to do “absolutely” as he pleases, if he cannot invade, because there is no such action as invasion, why talk of his “conscience” making trouble for him? If it were possible for any social being always to act as certain philosophers talk, the only time his “conscience” would prick him would be when he had failed to “win out” at the expense of someone else. Fortunately, however, the sense of equity is not non-existent even in the most ignorant, the most degraded, the most unfortunate – nay, nor even in the most theoretical; it is a part of the logic of life even of those who most loudly deny its reality.
CC.40 Of him who so curiously and astonishingly identifies defense with “restraint,” with government, I would ask this question: “How does it happen that you and A have the “right” to invade me by burning my home, and B and C and I have not the right to form a committee of defense, to organize to protect ourselves, to make it costly to you to invade, to make you “take the consequences”? How is it you fail to see that one of the “consequences” of invasion, whether the invasion be an act of uncalculated criminality or of asserted “right,” is organized resistance, organized defense, organized prevision and provision against the recurrence of like invasions? One is under no obligation to fight the invader sing[l]e-handed, and there can be no obligation resting on us for any reason if there is no obligation resting on you not to invade. What could be more paradoxical than the two assertions taken together as the two halves of the one doctrine – the affirmation of the “right to invade,” and the denial of the right unitedly to resist invasion? Practically, this theory leaves rights only to those who are disregardful of the rights of others.
CC.41 The editorials of the more progressive newspapers of Philadelphia, in censure of the denial to Emma Goldman of the opportunity to speak in that city, the organization of the protest meeting, the address of Mr. Pentecost and others at that meeting, the appeal to the courts in the case of the men arrested when the first meeting was suppressed, the action of the Free Speech League in this and in the Turner case – all the arguments, all the indignation, were emphatic denials of the alleged “right to invade.”
CC.42 The desire to refrain from meddling, to which Mr. Pentecost has given concrete expression in his “mind-your-own-business” society, shows that even he recognizes there is such an act as invasion, that it is not a “right,” and that minding one’s own business is its antithesis. Clearly, also, Mr. Pentecost’s chief objection to “conscience,” to “morals,” is the insufficiency of their power hitherto to secure the “minding of one’s own business,” that is, non-invasion.

Liberty and responsibility go hand in hand. The more liberty the more responsibility. The slave has no moral responsibility. He toils and is fed. The master thinks for him, acts for him, holds him in fee simple. Sir J. Malcolm, in his “Sketches of Persia,” says: “Slaves in the Mohammedan countries are liable, for any crimes they may commit, to only half the punishment to which the freeman would be subject. The law proceeds on the ground of their not being on a par, as to knowledge or social ties, with other parts of the community.” Here, in a Christian land, we punish the slave, and the late slave doubly or trebly; the more ignorant and helpless, the more severe the punishment. It rests with radicals of all schools to recognize and act on the truth that liberty carries with it responsibility; that of our own volition we should abstain from invasion, respect the equal liberty of all, refrain from the monopolization of the common light, air, land, forest, water, time. When we decline to recognize equality of liberty, when we assume that rightfully we may “do as we please,” without regard to the equal desire of others to do as they please, we unintendingly show that we are in the grip of the old social creeds, of the creeds dominant to-day, of the creeds which let the powerful do “as they please,” while vindictively punishing those who are unable to buy or compel immunity. “As we please”? Yes, at our own cost. “As we please”? Yes, in our individual homes, not in the common air, the common car, the common hall, the homes of others. In these, your liberty and mine is relative to the liberty of all others, the liberty of all others is relative to ours. To illustrate very simply, even if in seeming jest. It is one’s liberty to turn loose a half-dozen fighting cats in his orchard, or his cellar; it is not his liberty to turn them loose in a hall, when a meeting is in progress, or in the house of a neighbor. His “as I please” ends where the “as we please” of the others begins. In other words, his liberty is relative to that of others, not “absolute” over that of others. He has not the “right to invade.” His so-called “absolute liberty” is a fiction of the dreamer whose theories are unrelated to the facts of human society, to the inductions of the scientific investigator. Equal liberty, equal rights – not equal liberty to invade, but equal right not to be invaded; not equal liberty to interrupt a meeting, but equal right to listen without being interrupted; not equal liberty to steal, but equal right not to be robbed; not equal liberty to wantonly kill, but equal right to be secure against murder.

The acceptance of the theory and facts of evolution does not change the situation as regards the relation of acts of aggression to liberty and responsibility, although it does alter our feelings toward the offending link in the endless chain of activity, and necessitates some material modifications in the methods of defense. The need of defense, the justifiableness of defense, the practical responsibility of the immediately intruding organism remain as they were when we accepted the teleological interpretation of the cosmos and looked upon men as free moral agents. The dominance of the modern scientific view reveals to us the folly and needless cruelty of anger toward offenders, the irrationality of punishment for its own sake, and the demoralizing effect of the sentiment of revenge. The new viewpoint, then, should lead us to adopt more cool-blooded, and immensely more wide-reaching methods of defense; to look far behind for causes, to plant deeply and cultivate carefully for permanent improvement, and to hope a long way ahead for the fruition of our seed-sowing and tillage.
CC.45 This much the universal recognition of the facts of evolution, of the truth of the Monistic philosophy, reasonably may be expected to do for the now inchoate sociology of mankind. But when it is intimated, as it was so strongly by Mr. Pentecost at the Sunrise Club dinner on May 16, that the recognition of these facts and this truth teaches that individuals are not to be held responsible for their anti-social actions, that conscience safely may be disregarded, that morality is a bad dream only, then an induction is drawn that is wholly unwarranted. The ancestry, so to speak, of an injurious action has no bearing on the practical questions of liberty, defense, and responsibility which are at issue. If A is killed by B it does not bring A back to life, nor lessen the grief and destitution of those who were dependent on A, to be told and to realize that B is what the past has made him, that he is not a free moral agent. Our right to defend ourselves against the B’s, whether they are acting as individuals or as organized bodies, to adopt preventive measures, to restrain them after their aggressions if necessary, is just as clear and indisputable as is our right to dig caves in which to shelter ourselves from cyclones, to levee rivers to prevent inundations, to drain swamps and river-bottom lands in order to banish malaria and exterminate mosquitoes, to out roofs over our heads and clothes on our bodies to protect ourselves against the inclemencies of the weather. The right to defend ourselves against any and all these injurious forces is in no way dependent on their nature or their position in the cosmos; it does not matter at all whether they act under the iron law of necessity or are free moral agents. They come into hostile contact with us and we defend ourselves. That is all. But the way in which we defend ourselves depends on our mental attitude, and that depends on the extent of our knowledge, inherited and personally acquired. To illustrate: The savage, whose fellow-tribesmen had choked to death in the carbonic acid at the pit’s bottom, offered a sacrifice in propitiation to the Demon of the Hole. This man-primitive was under the sway of the animistic conception; he thought that which had killed was a person of some kind, a free agent. We know better, and so we adopt different defensive measures against the deadly gas. But our right to defend ourselves is no less than was his.
CC.46 If a “no-responsibility” theorist lived in a malarial section there can be little doubt he would join with others in efforts to draw off the stagnant water, remove the decaying vegetation, and get rid of other factors in the production of malaria, and all this without stopping to consider that the noxious germs act as they have to, not being free agents. Pending the success of the preventative measures, he would try dieting in an attempt to starve the micro-organisms that had effected a lodgment in his body, or strive to kill them by a drug treatment, thus holding them to a very practical responsibility for their attacks on his person, attacks which their nature compelled them to make.
CC.47 No doubt, also, Mr. Pentecost would not strenuously object to the wholesale destruction of mosquitoes by the use of ditching spade and oil, and should one of the buzzing tribe get into his room at night it is quite probable that, while there might not be unseemly and unscientific anger behind his slaps, there would be earnestness and vigor in them, and the attempt to disintegrate the anatomy of the uninvited visitor would not be abandoned because of the knowledge that the mosquito does not possess the attribute of free will.
CC.48 We might continue to illustrate the fallacy of the “no-responsibility” idea by passing along the entire line of the impersonal forces, the small pests and the serious foes, microscopic and great alike, which often or continuously annoy or gravely threaten us, which interfere with our comfort or jeopard our health and lives. All are parts of the one cosmos, none of them is a “free moral agent,” and yet, within the limits of our ability to do so, we hold all of them responsible for their aggressions upon our domain and their interruptions of our activities.
CC.49 In so far as we are injuriously affected, in so far as our right to defend ourselves and provide security for the future are concerned, it does not matter whether we are assailed or menaced by a slave or a freeman, by a serf of necessity or an unlawed god. We are dealing, in any now, with the danger that is present, with the enemy that assails, not with his ancestor of ten million years, ten decades, or ten years ago. If a Scotch or Sicilian or Kentucky clansman attacks you because you are descended from a rival clan, because his father swore him to lasting enmity against the members of your clan, as his father had sworn him, and so on back through the generations, your right to defend yourself, to hold the individual and immediate aggressor to responsibility, is not lessened by reason of the hereditary taint and rancor, by his moral unfreedom.
CC.50 It seems to me that all this is self-evident, and that it in no way militates against the selection of the most rational, the most humane, and the most educational means of defense possible to be used in any given emergency.

In reply to all that has been said, it is answered, “There would be no criminals if Anarchy prevailed,” meaning Communism, for it is a representative Communist who speaks. Certainly this conclusion is legitimate if it be true that all have the “right to invade,” for invasion is the essence of criminality, of criminality in the social sense, not necessarily in the legal sense. There being no such act as an invasion, no such act as a crime, of course, there would be no criminals under Communistic sociology. But to leave Cloudland and get back to earth: If – and Communist so assert – governments commit the greatest crimes (despite the asserted fact that there are no crimes, all persons having the “right to invade”), the question arises which were first, individuals or governments? Individuals, of course. Then did not individuals commit the first crimes, not only against one another separately, but against themselves individually and collectively by creating governments? The conclusion being unescapable that governments were made by individuals, what guarantees have you that the abolition of government anywhere, at any time, would prevent all crime, would prevent the re-emergence of the governing instincts of the race in the form of new governments, individual or collective? Is it not true that law had its source in the people, that customs are laws, and often are more widespread and more rigidly and cruelly enforced than any statute law ever has been? Instances of such invasive customs (common laws) will occur to every one the moment the thought is suggested. Emma Goldman well said that the most important and the most difficult emancipation was the emancipation of ourselves within. Until that is done government will exist, legalized or unlegalized.
CC.52 The Single Taxer and Anarchist, Dr. J. C. Barnes, wrote: “It is coercive force that is at the bottom of all the error and evil that exist, and not the depravity of man.” To which the Fabian Socialist, R. B. Kerr, answered with the dynamite question: “If coercive force is the cause of all error and evil, what is the cause of coercive force?” When the Anarchist, or Single Taxer, or Communist learns enough not to say that one social cause is the source of all evil, and another social cause the source of all good, it will not be so easy for the Fabian Socialist or anyone else to refute him.
CC.53 But here we are confronted with another puzzle: Coercive force cannot be the cause of all evil, for “there is no evil” caused or uncaused, says Mr. Pentecost. I hope Dr. Barnes and Mr. Pentecost will “get together” and agree on a workable theory concerning evil or its non-existence. “Evil,” as the word is used by Dr. Barnes, means that which injures or destroys an organism; therefore, there is evil.

Says Mr. Pentecost: “The last shred of conscience must go.”
CC.55 On the contrary, conscience must be quickened, made more insistent, compelling. Instead of avoiding it, we must put ourselves in the way of its urge.
CC.56 Conscience is the instinct of self-preservation, on the subjective side cognizing and dividing the acts of self, and on the objective side, cognizing and dividing the acts of others. It knows actions as “right,” or “wrong” as they do or do not help the self and the not-self, the two joined in the tribe, in the struggle for existence. But it does not know which actions do the one and which do the other thing. That the mind must tell. Conscience does not tell the intellect what is right and what is wrong, but to do what the intellect believes is right and to abstain from doing what the intellect believes is wrong. A newspaper correspondent says conscience can never be educated; it always knows what is right and commands it to be done. It is true that conscience cannot be educated, for conscience is an impelling force, not a thinking machine; but conscience can be strengthened, just as the impulse to love can be strengthened, by using it, by heeding bit, by permitting it to exercise and expand its powers. But conscience does not know what is right, it does not know what actions preserve the self and the not-self in the battle for life and joy. It shouts aloud, “Whatever is good, do; whatever is not good, do not do.” The intellect must determine what is good, what is not good.
CC.57 I said conscience is the instinct of self-preservation, but that is an inaccurate use of the word “instinct.” I used it there as a bridge word only. “The desire to live,” or “the feeling for life,” would be better than “the instinct of self-preservation.” The desire to live tells you to avoid danger, but it does not tell you how to avoid danger. But an instinct may tell you how to avoid danger, for what are called instincts are the experiences of the past woven into the constitutions of the units of the race, existing, for the most part, sub-consciously, and the acts done under their direction are done automatically.
CC.58 So it comes to pass that conscience tells us to do what is right, and to abstain from doing what is wrong, while our instincts – sub-conscious memories of preservative inventions – and our intellects, try to tell us what is right and what is wrong.
CC.59 Why not, then, to present the thought in another way, say that conscience is the motive, while reason is the guide of motive? It is not the conscience, the motive, that should be weakened, discarded, but the intellect that should be sharpened and strengthened.
CC.60 From motive to motive power is but a step. So conscience, motive, motive-power, as you may choose, says, “I drive the train of life along the track.” And intellect, the engineer, sits with hand on the lever and eyes scanning the rails, and says, “I will keep the train of life and love on the track, if I can. Together conscience and I can do much and go far. Without conscience, I am a Napoleon of ruthless ambition. Without me, conscience is a Torquemada of blind impulse.”
CC.61 “Conscience” – the feeling or desire for life and happiness, this feeling or desire broadened by intellect so as to include as necessities of life and happiness for ourselves the lives and happiness of the other members of society – and “morality,” accurately understood to mean the science and art of non-invasive human relations – are the flowers of evolution up to this hour. Physical strength makes little for happiness if not kept from ruthlessness; intellect makes only partially for happiness if not tempered by sympathy and the sense of equity.
CC.62 That which Mr. Pentecost thinks is conscience and fears, is ignorance, which is a negative condition of intellect, not a quality of conscience. Conscience is feeling, attraction to life, shrinking from destruction. Intellect results from organization, the specialization of function, and deals with the messages brought by the senses, in the past and present, comparing, contrasting, analyzing, synthesizing, framing concepts, reasoning. We need more conscience, a stronger desire to live and love and live and love well; more motive power impelling us toward the goal of individual and race achievement. With this we need more intellect, better intellect, the intellect that is nourished and equipped by science, the intellect that is of this world, that concerns itself with the vital, social problems of this home of man, not the intellect that is circumscribed and dwarfed by tradition, by nescience; not the intellect that seeks in other worlds for the home of man and looks for justification of existence in the whim of child-born gods.

The indiscriminating denunciation of morality, which is so strong a note in the utterances of many leading reformers, is a lamentable, but inevitable, incident of an era of unusual transition. I am not unaware of the derivation of “morality” from custom, and know that much of the protest now heard against morality is, in fact, a protest against blind, unthinking adherence to the concepts and habits of savage and barbarian men. With this attitude of doubt and rejection I am in hearty sympathy, but I do not lose sight of the fact that to the masses of mankind “morality” means not “customary,” but “good,” and so when one assails “morality,” without a clear preliminary explanation of the significance he gives to the terms employed, he is sure to be misunderstood by all, save now and then a scholar and the few who have made a study of the speaker’s field of work. So the innovator must spend much valuable time in trying to make the bulk of his hearers, or readers, understand that instead of antagonizing anything that really makes for human health and happiness, he is antagonizing only those beliefs, ideals, and customs which he is convinced are destructive of human health and happiness. At the outset he has needlessly created a prejudice against his propaganda by reverting to the almost forgotten root-meanings of words, or has utterly confused thought by injecting into important terms meanings held only by himself and a handful of fellow thinkers or fellow-dreamers. Words are tools; use modern tools, fit tools, tools adapted to your work. Don’t try to plow with a saw or knit with a spade.

It is easier to change the institution than the name of the institution. The institution itself is modified by environment – by changes in climate, industry, education; by the people mingling with other peoples, by city or country life, by a thousand factors that scarcely touch the name. For example, take Christianity: Its attitude toward the Bible, toward dissenters; the beliefs of its intellectually foremost expounders, all these have changed, have been radically modified. But the name clings, is claimed for and conceded to those who are far apart in creeds, ceremonies, and life. Or, take the institution of so-called monogamic marriage: The name remains, but the institution itself has been undergoing modifications for a long time, still is changing, and will continue to change. Compare the Catholic conception of marriage as a sacrament, the Protestant and Secular conception of marriage as a civil contract, and the “free union” conception of a marriage which repudiates both ecclesiastical and civil sanction. [Online editor’s note: Walker’s own marriage was of this third sort. – RTL] The husband is ceasing to be the “head of the family,” in the old meaning, save as a fiction of compliment. Ages ago he lost the power of life and death over wife and children; he no longer arbitrarily may divorce the wife while the wife has no authority to divorce him, as was the case in old times; the property rights of the wife have been revolutionized in four decades; there are now many legal causes for divorce, against only one, at the most, a half century ago. There is a constant tendency toward the equalization of rights in the family – comparatively few husbands today, in civilized communities, would attempt to whip their wives, or have the insolence to open their letters without express permission. But the old name has not been dropped. The label seems to be indelible; the thing itself is worn and re-formed by the attrition of the ages. Don’t waste time trying to get rid of names with perpetual patents.
CC.65 To nearly all the inhabitants of our intellectual world, “morality” stands for “good,” instead of for merely customary. Then, let us accept this almost universally-received meaning. Doing this, we can say, Yes; morality is a good thing, but that idol you are worshipping under the name is not morality, but immorality; and then concentrate our energies on the effort to show why it is immorality. We must discredit it anyway, and we much more easily can discredit it when it is known by its real name, immorality, a name which is hated, than we can when it is miscalled morality, a name which is loved. To illustrate: Yes, morality is good, but this marriage system is not good, it is not moral, it is immoral, and it is immoral because it causes more disease and unhappiness than it prevents. That is the direct, the common-sense, the effective method of attack. Shall we employ this method or shall we let our fancy for paradox further confuse thought and cripple our best-intentioned endeavors?
CC.66 The old morality came to us of these later ages in a “thus saith the Lord.” It held that our first duty was to the gods, that when our duty to the gods and our duty to or our love of our fellows conflicted, the demands of the gods were paramount and must be recognized, no matter what the cost to us as parents, children, lovers, neighbors. This is so why so many hastily attack the very name and idea of morality. They fear the finality, the immutability, of that which was behind the label. But our morality is human, and is regardful of only the denizens of earth; it is natural, scientific, inductive, subject always to investigation, experimentation, modification, with increasing knowledge, with altering environment.
CC.67 “Religion” means other-worldism. Let it stand at that. Don’t waste time and breath in trying to convince the multitude that it means something it never did mean to those who birthed the word and the fact.
CC.68 “God” means a powerful person, a superhuman person. Let it stand at that. Don’t waste precious energy in trying to make the world believe it means something never dreamed of as connected with the word until the brains of the world had lost faith in the existence if this personal God.
CC.69 In the minds of all but one out of ten thousand, “moral” means “good.” Let it stand at that. Don’t waste your strength in trying to beat a long-accepted definition of a word out of the minds of practically the whole of mankind. Simply say: We want all to be moral, to be good, to be happy. To be free is to grow, is to be moral, or on the way to morality. To be respectful of the rights of others, is to be moral. To be physically strong is to be moral, or to have the means for becoming moral. To be free from prejudice, to think freely and fearlessly, is to be moral, for such a state of mind leads to truth and truth establishes harmony in human relations. To be gentle, to be kind, to be loving, is to be moral. To be impatient of injustice and cruelty, is to be moral. To mind your own business, is to be moral. To be the opposite of any or all these, is to be immoral. By this rule we measure all other ethical codes, all religions, all social institutions, all men and women.
CC.70 “Moral” is a word-coin in universal circulation. Make it useful. Make it carry your thought, your ethic, your hope, your ideal to all the lands of the earth.
CC.71 To me the spirit, the purpose, the logic of life, breathing in the stanzas of William Ellis, “Wine of Omar Khayyam,” are the best to be sought, the best when found:

He rode the flame-winged dragon-steed of Thought;
      Through space and darkness, seeking Heav’n and Hell;
      And searched the farthest stars where souls might dwell
To find God’s justice; and in vain he sought.

Then, looking on the dusk-eyed girl who brought
      His dream-filled wine beside his garden well,
      He said: “Her kiss, the wine-jug’s drowsy spell;
Bubul; the roses; death – all else is naught;

“So drink till that.” – What, drink, because the abyss
      Of Nothing waits? because there is for man
But one swift hour of consciousness and light?

No – just because we have no life but this,
      Turn it to use; be noble while you can;
Search, help, create; then pass into the night.

“All is good.” “All” is a big word, even if it has but three small letters, far too big to be used thus lightly.
CC.73 “All” is not “good” for man, whatever it may be for “all.”
CC.74 Perhaps “all is good” in the sense that all the suffering will not annihilate the cosmos, but only in that sense. It would be better if “all” could end itself, thus ending the agony of all.
CC.75 Whether “all is good” in the sense that all the blood and tears cannot destroy the sum of matter, is a purely academic question, but it is not an academic question when individuals are in agony. That is a very practical question. “All” is not good for Y, who is perishing miserably in a slow fire, whatever Z, who is protruding pleasant paradoxes at a comfortable distance, may think of the terrible death. Some one long ago wrote that to be philosophical is to bear the sufferings of others with equanimity. The toothache does not seriously inconvenience me except when I have it myself. It was one of the accomplishments of the old orthodox theology that its doctrines enabled the saved one per cent to sprawl contentedly on the parapets of heaven on a fine May afternoon and enjoy the contortions of the damned ninety-nine per cent agonizing in the prison-pen below. In fact, said the amiable old theologs, the exhibition of anguish in hell adds to the zest of the pleasures found in heaven – for those who are in heaven. I have a suspicion that the refrain of that song everlastingly chanted around the Throne to Moses and the Lamb by the one-hundred and forty-four thousand male virgins [Online editor’s note: Revelation 14:1-4. – RTL] was “All is good,” “there is no evil,” “the evil is just as good as the good.” It is contradictory enough anyway to have been found in the Bible, and its incomprehensibility would have given it a place of honor in the Athanasian Creed. The whole subject reminds me forcibly of what Robert Ingersoll said about the burning of Servetus by Calvin. [Online editor’s note: Reformer and secularist Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899); Spanish theologian Michael Servetus (1511-1553), burned at the stake in Geneva under the authority of John Calvin (1509-1564). – RTL] “Had the Presbytery of Chicago been there,” remarked Ingersoll, “they would have quietly turned their backs [to the flames], solemnly divided their coat-tails, and warmed themselves.”
CC.76 As to whether “all is good,” men and other sentient organisms are the ones vitally concerned, and they must measure the good or ill in life by their own standards of value, not by the standards of any god or Good, with a capital G. And each will judge for himself. He is the center of his known universe, and if he find pain, robbery, tyranny, loss of all that is dearest to him, he cannot say of a verity that “all is good.” And he knows that the evil is not “just as good as the good.” He knows that love helps and sweetens; that hate hinders and embitters. He knows that tyranny hardens and cankers; that liberty softens and makes generous. He knows that labor sought and delighted in exalts and dignifies; that the slave’s drudgery thrusts still lower and still more brutalizes. He knows that torture of mind or body is good for neither bidy nor mind; that beauty to the eye, harmony to the ear, perfume to the nostril, deliciousness to the taste, the thrill to the touch, splendid thoughts to the mind, love and passion to the emotions, all help develop body and mind and emotions.
CC.77 “All is good”? Not for Mr. Pentecost when he goes into a restaurant. He will choose, thank you; the bad is not “just as good as the good.” If you think he thinks it is and you are a waiter, try to compel him to take what he does not choose, “dark” meat, for instance.
CC.78 “All is good”? Not for Mr. Pentecost when he goes into a library. He will choose, thank you; the bad is not “just as good as the good.” If you think he thinks it is and you are the librarian, try to force him to take what he does not select, a volume of poems, for instance, when he wants Ibsen or Shaw.
CC.79 We are thrust into the restaurant of the world, into the library of the world, and, unlike Mr. Pentecost in the restaurant and library in the city, we have choice neither of time nor land nor race. A few of us, now and then, for a little time, do partly what we want to do, die in the way we want to die, having to die, but how few of us have even this much liberty! Whole races of us are borne out to lingering death at the glacier’s foot, congealing in its icy breath. Whole races of us go down on submerged continents. Hundreds of millions succumb to loathsome pestilence in a few brief years. Cities and their inhabitants are buried in lava, tumbled into ruins by earthquakes. Millions die in torture-chambers, are cut down on the war-fields, starve to death, freeze to death, in the retreats of the Napoleons from the Moscows, in the rush of the Alexanders and the Alarics across the continents. [Online editor’s note: Alaric, Visigothic chieftain whose army sacked Rome in 410 C.E. – RTL] And death is the least of the suffering, and the suffering and premature and horrible death of men but a fraction of the suffering and premature and horrible death that the gray old world has known.
CC.80 “All is good”! One could smile at that were it not for the tears that will come first. Tyrants have preached it to slaves to keep them slaves, but why does Mr. Pentecost preach it? Or, is it only paradox?
CC.81 It goes without saying that all these things are known to Mr. Pentecost. In his Radical Club address, in his references to nature, one heard the words “pain” and “shame,” “sobs,” “anguish,” and the like. This recognition of the facts makes more astounding the brilliant and bewildering paradoxes I have quoted, and others, such as “as good as should be,” none of which can fail to confuse those who are unaccustomed to follow arguments with close and analytical attention.

Yes, Whitman does say that he sees all this pain and wrong and is “silent.” But he was not silent; the poetical phrase is answered by his life work. And he was a reformer, avowedly a reformer. Reading him, one cannot fail to see that he does not believe “the evil is as good as the good,” in any human sense. Reading him, one cannot fail to realize that he sees that health is better than disease, that candor is better than hypocrisy, that liberty is better than slavery, that comradeship is better than strife, that labor is better than indolence. Not a reformer? Why, his declared mission was to give America a new poetry, a new conception of sex, a new bond of union in continent-wide comradeship. If all that does not give him the title of reformer, in intention, at least, what would?

A bright woman, writing some time since in “The Whim,” said: “I often wish I were a tree. Then I could grow and develop to the full capacity of my being without being hindered and constantly criticised by others.”
CC.84 I introduce this here only to illustrate my general criticism specifically. Our powers of observation are, as a rule, very insufficiently developed. We do not really see our fellows, nor nature in a wider field. The fact is a tree has a harder fight for individuality than a man or a woman has – of course, I mean the average tree, the average man or woman. If a tree grows among its kind in a forest it has a constant fight to keep its top in the light. It is crowded and pushed down on every side, and survives only by sacrificing others of its kind, or trees of other kinds. Its leaves are torn from it by the wind, or devoured by locusts. It may be rived by lightning or prostrated by a hurricane. Standing alone in the open, it assumes a form greatly different from that of its fellow in the grove, but is likely to be worse treated by the wind and by browsing animals when it is young. In either position it has its insect and other small enemies. When man comes on the scene it has two enemies more destructive than the others, man himself and his fire. Cultivated, it is pruned, dwarfed, robbed of its flowers and fruit. In short, the tree is “hindered and constantly criticised by others.”
CC.85 Certain writers “have not learned not to divide the world into ‘right’ and ‘wrong’,” we are told by another. No, and never will. “Wrong” is what hurts; “right” is what helps. We do not want to be hurt; we do want to be helped. So we shall continue to stigmatize that which harms us; we shall continue to laud that which pleasures us. We shall continue to set “right” over against “wrong,” “good” over against “bad,” over against “evil”; “liberty” over against “slavery,” “defense” over against “invasion,” “Anarchism” over against “government.”
CC.86 I have changed my subject several times, as you have observed, unless you have not observed, unless when you see trees you do not see trees, but imaginary trees. I had to be of a divers turn of mind because I was following two or three addresses on different subjects. Permit me to quote, in closing, these words of hope:

     “Winning by inches, holding by clinches,
          Standing by truth and human right,
     Many times failing, but never once quailing,
          Thus the new day comes out of the night.”



Criticising the theory of the right and practicability of defensive association, C. L. James [Online editor’s note: Wisconsin journalist and anarchist, associated with Emma Goldman’s circle. – RTL] satisfies the undiscriminating mind by playing on the word “coercion,” as though coercion and defense were identical. But he was forced to do this by the impossibility of his contention; only by confusion of the unrelated could a case apparently be made against the right of two or more persons to combine to resist and prevent robbery or assault. His argument, and the argument of all his school, in brief, is this: “There is no difference between drowning a man and resisting his attempt to drown you. To drown him, is to coerce him; to prevent his drowning you, is to coerce him. If your friend helps defend you, so much the worse for both; you have organized to coerce the poor would-be murderer, and the Lord only knows what government may grow out of this blunder.” This is of a piece with saying, You must not eat when hungry, lest you eat too much. I wish Mr. James joy of his logic. It is a revelation and a winged creature.

A friend, having read this address in manuscript, wrote:

So far as there is any such thing as “right,” I can find no basis for it save “might,” and I don’t believe you can, either.
CC.89 Replying, I said:
CC.90 If you posit might as the basis of right, or as synonymous with it, you are estopped from all denunciation of acts that hurt you. Then every quiver of indignation against tyranny, robbery, cruelty, is illogical, absurd, stultifying. If might is right, then while Anthony Comstock has might he is right – and he always will have right while it is believed that might is right, for you cannot bring about rebellion while you preach that the despot is right, and that is what you do when you assert that “might is right.” All that has been done against the Censor has been done by those who feel that his might is not right, however they may theorize that their might is or would be right. That’s it – we never admit that the oppressor’s might is right, but easily may prove abstractly that “might is right,” because we are sure our might would be right. Our only valid argument against tyranny is based on the affirmation that right is right, while it may or may not be associated with might.
CC.91 In return there came this:

You say our only argument against tyranny is based on the denial of the “right of might.” But what are your arguments against tyranny directed to? They are not directed to the tyranny, or the tyrants. You expect nothing from either. You are not working to overthrow their “might,” but to raise up a greater “might.” You do not attack Comstock that he may resign and the Society go out of business, but that the might of an aroused public sentiment may declare itself for freedom and truth. When we go back to nature for the basis of “right,” we chase a lot of “spooks,” [Online editor’s note: a Stirnerite phrase. – RTL] and we begin to think that “right” is itself the biggest kind of spook; for nowhere do we find a “natural” basis of “right,” except in the approval which nature accords to “might.” The power to do the thing is all the “letters-patent” which nature accords. In the last analysis, every “might” is “right” until it meets a mightier might.
CC.92 Many of the mistakes in this are referable to word-blindness, to failure to see what I said in the beginning, to lack of perception of the fundamental ideas upon which rest my whole argument concerning right and rights. Of course, it is very easy to draw an arbitrary line through phenomena and say “nature” is on one side of this line, giving the implication that something not nature is on the other side. This is the one source of the denial of natural rights. In the opening of my address, I elaborately guarded against this unwarranted assumption. I pointed out that the human brain, the human conscience, and human society, no less than the human body and all other parts of the physical world, are included in “nature,” are among the resultants of its material and mental processes; are, themselves, at this stage of development, active factors in those processes. The “mightier might” which mere material power meets is the veto of intellect and conscience, of the intellect which tells you what is right, and the conscience which bids you do what is right, these two acting together. Obviously, my critic’s refusal to murder her neighbor’s helpless babe is as “natural” as is her “letters-patent” of might. In the eagerness of debate she has forgotten that nature gives a different “might” to different individuals, and often to the same individual at different stages of development. The “power-to-do” used in robbing a man of his labor-fruits is no more “natural” than is the “power-to-do” used by another in preventing that robbery. The conscience-born or -sanctioned power-to-do, which manifests itself in respecting and safeguarding the equal liberty of all, is the might to which we appeal, and it is as “natural” a might as is the might showing forth in spoliation and slaughter.
CC.93 Two forces conjoin to produce evolution in society – whether the society below man or human society. These forces are the unrestrained struggle for existence and mutual helpfulness. Both operate for individual preservation and race preservation, but the second works on a larger scale, and possesses a larger portion of the element of prevision. More and more does sympathy – the ability to put yourself in another’s place, to feel his pain and his pleasure – actuate the individual organisms and dictate the action of the synthesis of the organisms, society. Increasingly does mere might, physical power-to-do, find arrayed against it something besides its like.
CC.94 Yes, our arguments are directed to the tyrants as well as to others; we are working to overthrow their might. In every struggle for wider liberty success is achieved in the measure that we weaken the tyrant by drawing off a part of his forces, active or passive. Men and women high in the councils of despotism, in even greater numbers proportionally than in the rank and file of its armies, have been won over by appeals directed to their sense of justice and their sympathies, by facts and arguments convincing their reason. They were shown that their old position was untenable, was unsound in ethics, and they realized that no longer could they occupy it with comfort and self-respect. They ceased to spoil and persecute, not because they had become satisfied that “might is right,” but because they now knew that the might of which hitherto they had been supporters was the foe of right and the crusher of the weak. Our modern evangels of the gospel of “might is right” know all this; the majority of them in their practice divorce might and right when might would crucify right, and all of them wrathfully lash whoever acts toward themselves on the assumption that his might constitutes a patent to prey on them. But abstractly they are at sea, because they have accepted the orthodox position that “nature” is purely physical, or, at most, only physical and mental, in its inclusions and manifestations, ignoring what appears to me the glaringly palpable fact that every protest of ours against tyranny and cruelty is nature’s own protest against a might without sympathy and conscience, for we are parts of nature, and shall the children, at the acme of present development on the ascending road of evolution, speak a language whose rudiments are not to be found potential in their heredity?
CC.95 My critic avers that we battle against the Censor “that the might of an aroused public sentiment may declare itself for freedom and truth.” But is her right to have freedom and speak truth vitiated by her lack of might at this moment? The exercise of the right is denied, and that is why we say the censor is a tyrant, but certainly it is absurd to hurl epithets at him if might alone sanctions actions and he has the might. I would say such bestowal of opprobrious terms was unjust as well as absurd, if there could be any injustice in a world where only might is right, where nothing is wrong that is mighty!
CC.96 In Christendom, for ages after the Reformation, one church succeeded another, in the British Islands and on the Continent, reigning in terror and torture and blood. There was scarcely a glimmer of a thought of natural rights, or social rights, or of equal liberty in the domain of religion. It was an orgy of brute strength and intellectual cunning, the mighty ruling without mercy over the weak, now one faction in the ascendant, now another. William of Orange had a harder task to teach his co-religionists the justice and wisdom of toleration of differences of belief and respect for the rights of their Catholic neighbors than he had to check and hurl back the armies of the colossal empire of Spain. In practice then, might was right, whatever theories to the contrary may have existed in inchoate form. Contrast the condition and ideal of that time with the ideal and condition here today, imperfectly realized as is our ideal, but already sufficiently tested to show us its immeasurable superiority over the old dominating thought and practice. We see now that men of the most divergent faiths, and men of no faith, in the religious sense, may live in the same country, in the same province, in the same city, without torturing and robbing and hunting one another in the old might-is-right manner, and that they thus dwell together in peace because there has come, in a certain measure, recognition of the equality of rights of all men, regardless of differences of opinion in matters of religion; because the dogma of might-is-right has been discredited in this field of human activity. The principle of Secularism is the negation of the dogma of might as the basis of right; it is the affirmation of the equality of natural and social rights. It is our work to extend the sovereignty of this principle from the field of religion to the fields of ethnology, morals, economics, and defense.
CC.97 Probably the most pernicious dogma ever formulated in the domain of religious morals was that of vicarious atonement, logically fruiting in an anti-social life, ending in death-bed repentance and gallows salvation. It was a pernicious, a disaster-breeding, dogma, in spite of the fact that many men of strong intellects, even brilliant intellects, and rare personal probity, accepted it and taught it as a fundamental doctrine of religion and morals. It was pernicious, and disastrous in its effects, because it was given to millions who were in the densest ignorance, who could not think coherently, who could not discriminate, who had no reasoned convictions regarding their social duties, regarding the rights of their neighbors, and who accepted the dogma as a license for an evil life which was to end in repentance and forgiveness at the foot of the stairs leading to a paradise of idleness and luxury.
CC.98 Similarly, we have the doctrine of might is right, formulated, accepted, and taught by many men of this modern time, men foremost among intellectually strong men, and men who are self-respecting and respectful of the rights of their fellows in great matters, most of them in small matters also. But the philosophical dogma they present goes to millions, percolating down through all strata of partially developed mentality and character, these strata of imperfect development including many men high in official power, wealth, and social position; this dogma goes to millions who, lie the millions who heard the glad, mad gospel of vicarious atonement, are unable to discriminate, are without reasoned convictions regarding their social duties, regarding the rights of their neighbors, or have only distorted convictions, and to many of these unfortunates, the dogma of might is right, might is the only right, is a pernicious doctrine, a disaster-breeding doctrine, sanctioning an anti-social life ending in blissful oblivion or in the heaven of persisting Christianity. These undeveloped ones make the abstraction practical, which their teachers do not.
CC.99 “Accomplishment justifies itself until such time as it shall be overthrown by a greater.” That is to say, if I have the power to break into my correspondent’s house and murder her, and do so, it is a “fact accomplished,” which “justifies itself” until such time as the law or the private avenger gets hold of me. But I manage to evade both die calmly in my bed; so my murder of her has “justified itself,” for my power has not been “overthrown by a greater.”
CC.100 “Power is the thing most approved by ‘natural selection’ – by common desire. It is mainly a question of the form power shall take.” Exactly. We are the results of and are factors in “natural selection,” and we have a very decided preference as to “the form power shall take.” We abhor it when it takes the form of oppression, of robbery, or cruelty, or murder. So, after all, it is confessed that the test of right is not might – the might of mere brute force or intellectual cunning divorced from sympathy and a sense of equity – but the quality of might, the direction of its expression. This concedes all I claim.
CC.101 “You surely don’t contend that there are such things as ‘right and wrong,’ per se, do you?” In the first place – to avoid a possible misunderstanding – they are not “things,” any more than love is a “thing,” any more than truth is a “thing.” In the second place, I am not considering them independently of human beings or other forms of life. I do affirm that they are facts per se in the relations of sentient organisms. I have been told we cannot go to “nature” for “right” and “wrong.” But that is just where I do go, for I know nothing that is not nature, and hence, as we have concepts of right and wrong, they must have come from nature. Then the question is, Are there relations in nature which correspond to our concepts of right and wrong? Yes, unhesitatingly. We cannot go to nature for these? Why, we are in nature, of nature; we are most intimate with it in ourselves; we go to nature in going to ourselves. We know, as parts of nature, that there is “right” and there is “wrong” in relations; that actions are “right” or “wrong” as determined by relations. A “wrong” is an invasion; it is an intrusive act, an act lessening the happiness of another when and where such lessening of the happiness of another is not directly in defense of our own happiness against the invasive activity of this other person. As so often said before, most of our misapprehensions concerning natural rights grow out of our mistake in thinking that, if we go to “nature,” we always must go to something outside ourselves, to something extraneous to man, to something beyond and foreign to human relations, human society. For this disastrous blunder we are indebted immediately to the modern, supernatural religions, which placed mankind outside of and apart from ’nature,” as the special creation of a god or gods.
CC.102 The logic and ethics of our modern “There’s-neither-right-nor-wrong” school is most admirably summed up in Mr. Pentecost’s apothegm, You’ve got a right to hang a man for doing what he has a right to do.
CC.103 For the intellectual and moral and social reasons here imperfectly set forth, I reject the philosophical doctrine of might-is-right, as decades ago I rejected the religious doctrine of vicarious atonement and death-bed repentance.

There is altogether too much sneering at and denunciation of “the rights of property,” without first carefully discriminating between property that has been taken and property that has been created or earned by the holder. Without doubt, the phrase, “rights of property,” is a figure of speech, or a short way of saying that a man has a right to certain articles. After all, it is the right of the man to the things mentioned that is meant, and that is held to be inviolable. It is not a conflict, so far as a conflict rages, between “property-rights,” and the right of man to liberty and life, but a conflict between different rights of different men, or the rights of some men and the usurpations of other men, as the case may be. We cannot dissociate real property rights from the right to liberty and the right to life. There is no right of property; there is a right to property, or in property. In the words of the writer of the Shakespere [sic] plays, [Online editor’s note: The Merchant of Venice IV. 1, 382-4. – RTL]

You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life
When you do take the means by which I live.
CC.105 All protests against exploitation are based on the belief that the exploited has had taken from him that which rightfully was his. While the maker of property may prefer to hold it in common with few or many of his fellows, his doing so must be optional with him, and he may resume individual possession as he elects and has provided. If he has no rights in his labor-fruits, if he has no right to property, then his complaint that when he is despoiled is “a vain crying in the wilderness,” is absurd, is nonsensical, is stupid. But he has such rights, such right; the best possible utilization of his liberty and his life is contingent upon the retention and undisturbed enjoyment of the results of his labor. He may hold his labor-fruits individually, with one other person, with a thousand, with a million; the choice is his, inalienable by any other or others.

In the minds of a good many persons of more or less progressive ideas, “Evolution” is a sort of mystery-fetish, just as “God” or “Over-soul” or “the Divine Immanence” is a mystery-fetish in the minds of a great many more persons. Seemingly, it is believed that “evolution” is an entity, or a force beyond and independent of nature, acting upon nature to influence and direct its elements, instead of being the name given by man, First, to the sum-total of the processes, the activities, of these elements, and, Second, to the changes, the results produced by these processes, these activities; changes and results seen and cognized by man. A variant of this error is found in the belief that, while evolution is in no sense supernatural, nevertheless it is something that cannot be affected by anything man may do; that our efforts, conscious or unconscious, neither can defer nor hasten, neither can deflect nor modify, the changes destined by the fetish-power, evolution. In either view of the matter, “evolution” is simply another name for “God.”
CC.107 In the rational, because the scientific, view of the subject, every element, every combination of elements, in nature is perceived to be a factor in evolution, accelerating or retarding change, producing differentiation or assisting in maintaining the status quo, fixity of type. This is true alike in the worlds of sub-consciousness, consciousness, and self-consciousness. If the actor, the factor, in nature’s workshop is conscious, then conscious effort has an effect in nature, modifying, it matter snot in how slight a degree, the efforts of other factors and aiding in altering its own environment. If this factor is self-conscious, then it perceives that it has the power to affect the efforts of other factors, and knows that it may alter its environments for better or worse. Man, a conscious and self-conscious being, is no less a factor in nature than is that which we call unconsious [sic] matter; he affects by his activities his race, and its environment, and he is conscious that he does this.
CC.108 An amusing instance of the second form of the astonishing misapprehension with which I am dealing is found in an article in a reform periodical. The writer, arguing against the position that conscious effort can be a factor in evolution, first very curiously admits or maintains the substance of all I am contending for here, for he says: “His [the editor’s] conscious efforts also are part of evolution,” but he instantly cancels this admission, for he adds in a wonderful second part of the same sentence, “and hence can neither hasten nor retard evolution.” Was such a complete non sequitur ever seen before? The regiment is a part of the army corps – therefore, the regiment’s action is a matter of no concern to the commander; it cannot help win victories nor contribute to defeats. The condensation of vapor, its precipitation as water, the passage of the water through channels and its settlement in the earth, are parts of nature’s activity – therefore, man’s conscious efforts in irrigation and subsoiling are acts of futile folly, in no whit affecting results. The writer’s liver is a part of his body – therefore, his health cannot be affected by the condition of his liver. The wheel is a part of the wagon – therefore, the movement of the wagon is in no wise dependent on the condition, and consequent quality of activity, of the wheel. Well, well!
CC.109 Evolution is the name given to the course of the activities and the results of the activities of nature. Man is a part of nature. Hence, man, a conscious and self-conscious being, can and does participate in evolution; he is a factor, a self-conscious factor, in causing changes, in deciding the trend of evolution; especially, of course, in human society and its immediate environment.


Or, the Problems Presented by Anti-Social Act
And Their Perpetrators.

Note. – A paper read before the Sunrise Club.
CC.111 Herbert Spencer says: “In proportion as we love truth more and victory less, we shall become anxious to know what it is which leads our opponents to think as they do. We shall begin to suspect that the pertinacity of belief exhibited by them must result from perception of something we have not perceived.” [Online editor’s note: First Principles I. 1. 3. – RTL]
CC.112 If I am not positive to-night, if I do not zealously advocate a theory and undoubtingly offer a panacea, it is because I realize, in the spirit of Spencer’s thought, that there are many sides to and factors in this problem. But a very few of them can be examined, even in summary, at this time, and so I shall try to confine myself to the consideration of the question, What shall be done with the men and women who commit deeds universally recognized in our civilization as anti-social, as criminal?
CC.114 This is our most intricate and painful social problem, even when many of its economic, sumptuary, and ethical parts are exercised. My purpose is to deal only with the crimes of individuals, those acts which generally are accepted as invasive, inimical to personal safety, destructive of peace and security in society, for no advance toward a solution of the problem of social defense and the reformation of the criminal can be made while we are fundamentally divided as to what is crime and who is the criminal.
CC.114 To this end, I wish to leave out of particular consideration as causes of crime:
CC.115 1st. — The vast mass of industrial spoliation and the equally vast mass of blundering waste in the use of external nature. Each of these constitutes a great problem in itself and is receiving the attention of large numbers of persons. But neither of these evils, enormous as it is, is so complicated as is the other segment of the whole question, the segment which I wish you to help me examine now.
CC.116 2nd. — So also we will leave to one side the thousand of offenses against the law which are created by prohibitory statutes , license regulations, Sunday edicts, tariff restriction (from the last-named comes smuggling and undervaluation of imports), and “moral” (sexual) enactments. Many of the victims of these various kinds of misdirected effort will be found in the classes of criminals which are under our present inspection, but now we need to consider them only as offenders against other individuals, not regarding their position as effects of removable causes, causes that may have started them toward the way in which they are now stumbling.
CC.117 3rd. — Neither shall I consider war, which is organized and wholesale appropriation and destruction of property and infliction of torture and death, in connection with this question of personal crime. Until economic maladjustment and spoliation, until waste of natural resources, until paternal moral legislation, until war, are approximately as unpopular with the masses of the people as the anti-social acts of individuals are now, we shall not be in a position to calmly and improvingly examine our relations to criminals, in so far as their wrongdoing might be directly and consciously traced to monopoly, general ignorance, invasive legislation, and war. The best we can do in a practical way, is to examine the position, influence, and probable future of those whoa re designated criminals by the consensus of the people’s voices, leaving to a more enlightened time the deeper probing for causes and a more accurate and just classification. Said in another way: While doing all we can to secure that deeper probing and that more just classification, we, as practical and humane men and women, have to face a very near and vital issue, What shall we do with, what shall we do for, how shall we guard ourselves against, those individuals whom public opinion and the law agree in classing as criminals, as anti-social beings? We believe there will be an almost incalculable diminution in the number of these social offenders in the “sweet by-and-by,” when there is more justice, more liberty, among men, when War has sheathed his dripping sword, but we are living in the Now, and it is with the conditions of this day, not of the twenty-fifth century, that we must deal. So long as there is a great difference of opinion regarding monopoly, wastefulness, paternalism, and war, so long as the people are herded into parties on such issues, so long as political campaigns are fought to determine which view shall prevail – the affirmative or the negative, as to the unwisdom or criminality of monopoly, or paternalism, or war – so long will it be impossible to dispassionately and profitably discuss these matters as parts of the criminal problem. We must continue to regard them as general sociological problems, concerning which equally earnest and good men and women may differ. So long as this wide disagreement persists, each person can present his or her view and the arguments in support of it, but until the controlling forces in society agree that a given act inveighed against by one or a hundred of us is a crime, an anti-social act, we can do nothing.
CC.118 In other words, there are two stages in the study and treatment of crimes and criminals. In the first stage, we have to determine what is crime and who are criminals. In the second stage – having named our crimes and found our criminals – we proceed to discuss the question, What shall we do with these criminals? How shall we stop the commission of these crimes? Manifestly, we cannot ask these questions in other than an academic way as regards the deeds of monopolists, of wasters of nature’s riches, or paternal moralists, of warring nations. We have not yet educated the moving forces in society to look upon these actions as crimes, upon their doers as criminals.
CC.119 Thus it comes to pass that I wish you to confine your attention to the second stage of criminal study. Let us leave out of consideration for this time all partisan contentions as to what are crimes and who are criminals and take cognizance only of those delinquencies about which there is practically no disagreement. Even when thus restricted, the subject is altogether too extensive and involved to be settled in a hundred years of serious and unimpassioned consideration.
CC.120 There is substantial agreement that non-national killing is murder, is anti-social, is a crime; that non-legalized rape is a most serious offense [Online editor’s: Walker’s intended contrasts are with killing in war and rape in marriage, recognised by him but not yet by society as wrongs. – RTL]; that arson, that train-wrecking, that kidnaping, are atrocious wrongs; that theft, in its various forms, is a grave denial of the toiler’s right to the products of his toil. No political parties exist to defend these actions; no political campaigns are conducted with these for issues. The race, as we know it here, has reached practical agreement that all these are anti-social acts, are crimes, and that the perpetrators are not mere political heretics, are not simply misdemeanants, but are criminals. As regards these actions, then, we are in the second stage of the study of criminology. Now we legitimately may ask, What shall be done with these offenders? What shall we do to reduce their capacity for harm, to protect other individuals against them, to reform them, to prevent other men and women being affected for evil by their example?
CC.121 Having indicated the parts of the great social problem which it is not my intention to attempt to examine here and now, having shown, in the shortest possible way, the offenses which the people of our day and country generally agree in classing as criminal, having accepted as proper subjects of study those individuals whose anti-social acts are universally condemned, and without going “behind the returns” to ask what sort of lives those persons might have led with a different heredity and in a different society, I recur to and repeat the real question of this hour, How shall we act toward those offenders against the property, persons, and lives of others?
CC.122 I have to confess to you that I do not know, that I do not pretend to know. My purpose is to counsel with you as serious, humane, candid men and women. Every scheme proffered as a solution proves, on fair and full examination, to be no solution, or, at best, but a partial solution of some small part of the problem. There are so many factors to be taken into account, so many moral, economic, psychological, and passional elements to be considered and weighed, that, so far, it has been found impossible to reach a satisfactory conclusion, even a half-way or a merely tentative, conclusion.
CC.123 Even should we narrow this discussion still more by leaving out all reference to crimes caused by economic wrongs and ignorance of world-statesmanship, and even should we ignore the “labor” difficulty found in the maintenance and employment of prisoners, and so find ourselves facing only the difficulties presented by the crimes of violence springing from envy, jealousy, revenge, and other passions, and crimes such as embezzlement, forgery, malfeasance, and the like, which are inspired by greed and avarice, by gambling on a large scale, by extravagance and love of display, we should still be at our wits’ end to find a way to be at once effective in defense against and consistent and humane in our treatment of criminals.
CC.124 Contrasting the present with the past, we see that enormous gain has been made in the direction of humanity in the treatment of social offenders. Even the worst prisons and the horrible convict camps of some of the States are almost immeasurably better than the best prisons of past centuries and of some countries to-day. Physical torture, using the word torture in is chief sense, has vanished except, perhaps, in sporadic cases, and, in general, prisoners are well fed and do not suffer from cold. There are exceptions, in some state, and in some prisons in other states, but the strong and dominating tendency everywhere is toward the outing of all prisons on the level of the best.
CC.125 But this is saying far less than we, with our rising ideals, wish we could ay. What effect upon the future of convicts have our methods of restraint and care? The man who comes out of prison – what chance has he to remain out for the rest of his life? How does the public look upon the convict? What reception does it accord to him when he again stands among free men? More particularly and pertinently, what do you and I say and do if we come into immediate contact with him in concrete and the singular? What effect have the associations of the prison upon the first-term prisoner?
CC.126 The modern Rationalist, the man of science, the student of anthropology, of psychology, realizes, in general terms of perception and admission, that every organism is the resultant of antecedent and contemporaneous forces which are operative outside itself as well as formative within itself; he knows that men are what their heredity, their early education, and racial and climatic surroundings, and their present environment, compel them to be. He knows that, given the same factors of formation and direction that the criminal had, he himself would be a criminal. The scientific man, I say, perceives this truth as a general, or abstract, proposition, but he does nit always remember oit when he is confronted by crime and the criminal in the concrete. He is sometimes no more ready than is the untaught rural lyncher to repudiate the idea of “punishment,” to forego the gratification of vengeance.
CC.127 It seems to me that there are six important rules of action which society should adopt in its handling of anti-social individuals:
CC.128 1. Never for a moment should the offender be led by the actions or the utterances of the authorities or of teachers to believe that he is being “punished,” in the sense that vengeance is being inflicted, that the treatment meted out to him is being made to “fit the crime,” that, to illustrate, he is struck in order that he may suffer by a blow as the one he assailed suffered from his blows, on the savage principle of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” We must outgrow this savagery.
CC.129 2. No irremediable penalties should be imposed, such as death or mutilation, because human senses are fallible in their testimony, because witnesses may falsify, and the man adjudged guilty to-day to-morrow may be proven innocent. There are other reasons, which I shall refer to later.
CC.130 3. No penalties, either of fine or imprisonment, should be inflicted when such punishment is likely to cause deprivation and suffering to those whoa re dependent upon the labor of the offender. The laws and the prison regulations should be such that the prisoner, if able-bodied, can earn sufficiently to pay for his maintenance while in prison and to keep his dependents from suffering. He should also be enabled to save something with which to begin again the struggle of life when released. But this must be considered in connection with the next rule of action.
CC.131 4. The prisoner should be taught always that society has but three objects in view in its dealings with him – The protection of uninvasive persons, restitution to his victim or victims, and his own return to the world as a self-sustaining, self-respecting individual. Of course the prisoner cannot be so taught unless these are the objects of society.
CC.132 5. While in prison the man or woman should not be idle, mentally, physically, or emotionally. You can not make men and women better unless they are occupied with something in which they are interested. And all prisoners, at prescribed times, should be cheered, humanized, invigorated, inspired, and kept sane by the unwatched visits of those who wish to see them and to whom they are attached.
CC.133 6. The people should be told the truth, that they can not be excused from responsibility if they do not give released men a chance to redeem themselves, that these men are the products of efficient causes, just as is the man who was demented, but is now sane, just as is the man who is physically deformed. If these sufferers are to be hooted at and shunned, as the savage or the untrained child hoots at or shuns the alien, the cripple, or the unconventionally dressed person, there is no hope for the released prisoner but in a return to crime and then to the shelter of the prison, and the criminal problem is indeed and forever insoluable.
CC.134 I have said that it seems to me these six rules of action should guide the authorities and the people, but I know that each of these proposed principles of conduct is open to a multitude of objections, that the cases easily falling under each rule are no more numerous than the apparent exceptions, that in the way of the application of each there are mountains of difficulties, and this is why I said in the beginning that I am not here to enthusiastically propagate a theory, to undoubtingly offer a panacea, why I said later that I do not know what is to be done, that I come only to counsel with others.
CC.135 Now let us glance a little more in detail at these six proposed rules of conduct: It is objected to 1 and 2 that often men commit offenses which are best punished by bodily chastisement, as wife-whipping or petty theft. It is argued, and truly, that fining does little good as a deterrent in the case of the wife-shipper and merely takes food out of the mouths of the wife and children, while imprisonment has the same effect. It is said, too, that the wife is likely to get another beating in punishment so soon as the husband returns from prison, while, on the other hand, so salutary is the remembrance of the whipping, that he is far less apt to resort to violence again in revenge for her complaint than he would be had that complaint resulted in a less sharp punishment. That is to say, the whipping is a better deterrent than fining or imprisonment, does not take form the man money that should go to the support of the wife and children, and does not impose upon the people the burden of his support, as would imprisonment. To this argument comes the rejoinder that physical chastisement is degrading, alike to the receiver of it and to all who have to do with its infliction or witness or learn of its infliction. This is unquestionable, but it might be said again that those who impose fines and those who have prisoners in their care are not observed to become refined and elevated by their vocations. It is not possible that they should be so long as the existing ideals are in vogue. The moral tone of the physician or the attendant in a hospital for the insane is not necessarily degraded. This is because we are coming to take a scientific, a sane, view of the subject of insanity. In the ages when an insane person was looked upon a simply a tenement for devils, those who in any way had a charge of him were degraded by that work even more than are the keepers in the worst of our prisons to-day. The lesson is obvious.
CC.136 Opponents of capital punishment encounter objections that can not be laughed out of court, objections which must be taken and carefully weighed in the scales against the considerations that impel us to antagonize the infliction of the death penalty. What shall be done, it is asked, in the case of a an who deliberately sets fire to a crowded tenement house because he wishes to collect insurance or has a grudge against the owner of the building or the lessor or the janitor or a tenant, thus putting in deadly peril the lives of scores or perhaps hundreds of persons who never have injured him? Here was the Sandmere on Eighth Avenue – set fire to and the vestibule doors carefully fastened to keep out the firemen as long as possible. This was not a murder, or an attempted murder, of sudden passion, a blow struck in a moment, but a carefully-planned deed of wholesale destruction of property and life, in intention. Or here is a tramp or a discharged farm-hand or a neighbor who sets fire to the barns wherein are scores of horses and cattle and other animals, who die a cruel death in the flames. Or here is a man who wrecks a passenger train and maims and kills many persons, and this for purposes of robbery or to get revenge on the road or on an employee or a passenger. Or here are men who cut out in one night 6,000 feet of copper wire between signal towers and semaphores on a great railway, running trains almost continuously, thus jeoparding the lives of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. What is society to do with these men, if they are apprehended? Is not the prolongation of their lives too great a risk and too onerous an expense, taking into consideration the cruel ruthlessness of their natures? Can they be transformed into useful and harmless members of the social body? We kill the rabid dog or cow without question, though they are less dangerous than such men and though they are as surely and completely the product of antecedent causes and present environments. It is answered that while we are unable to reason with and apply moral suasion to the animals named, we can reason with and apply moral suasion to the incendiaries and train-wreckers. But, in the words of Dr. Frederick R. Marvin, is it not true that “there are paths of development behind the ape and men who tread them”? The difference seems to be that while, as a rule, we kill the rabid dog in a panic, but without attaching moral blame to it, we kill the men in anger, with all possible opprobrium, sometimes deliberately by law, and sometimes in a frenzy, by mob action, with accompaniments, frequently, of an atrocious cruelty not dreamed of in the case of the dog. We think the dog has no mind and no will to do wrong, while the men have minds and will to do wrong. This is the survival of the ancient delusion of an uncaused, a free, will. Still the question remains, What is it best to do with these exceptionally destructive men? On what grounds shall we take the risk of their continued living? I see but two, the first of which is found under “2,” and is that we should inflict no irremediable penalties, lest we put beyond rescue an innocent life, and the second of which is that the deliberate taking of human life is a bad example for society to set and tends to keep alive the thirst for blood, especially in all who have immediately to do with the taking of human life by law.
CC.137 Coming to 3 and 4 we are confronted with Labor’s strenuous denial of the right of prisoners to be engaged in productive labor. But I maintain there should not be an idle man or woman in any prison or reformatory, that is if he or she is physically able to work, and that the rights of outside laborers are to be safeguarded in ways that will not utterly ruin the lives of the unfortunate who are behind the bars, just as I maintain that the wives of undeveloped men are to be protected by giving them more liberty, especially liberty to get away from their lash-wielding masters, instead of trying to protect them by putting a lash into the hands of a constable for application to the backs of the husbands. Idleness in prison, even more than idleness elsewhere, is destructive of moral, mental, and physical fiber and is worse for society than would be the summary execution of every man sentenced in court. And the work done in prisons must be done because it is a pleasure to work, not because work is supposed to be inflicted as a punishment. There are fewer men than we think who do not wish to do something, and the task of the men in charge of our prisons is to find in every case, if they can, what work the prisoner prefers to do, what work he is really interested in, and then provide that work for him, if possible. There is not another thing that can be done which will be so effective in turning loose into society men who are better fitted to lead useful lives and who will be more desirous of leading such lives than they were when arrested.
CC.138 Let is determine that we want to increase the honest productive capacity of every person sent to prison, that we are no longer to be satisfied with the imposition of a task as a form of degradation, and that making a better man of the convict is not to be permitted to make a poorer man of the outside worker, and we surely shall find the ways and means whereby to put our determination into effect. The rights of the “free laborer” are not to be secured by further brutalizing the convict and by driving hope of better days out of his heart, but by wresting from the monopolist and the despot the privileges and powers which they have usurped.
CC.139 I said under 4 that one of the three objects society should have in mind in dealing with anti-social persons is restitution. Vengeance is of the savage, and we should be done with it. The punishment of one to deter others from the commission of like offenses may be of some value sometimes, but it bears too close a resemblance to vicarious atonement and its beneficent results are so hard to find when one is in a hurry, that we may be pardoned if we fail to see in it so much importance as many sociologists think it possesses. Restitution, however, is affirmative and while I am very far from claiming that its application is possible in even a majority of instances, I am inclined to think it should receive far more serious consideration than it has from moralist, lawmaker, and judge. Where is the economy, political, or other, in sending a man to prison for a year because he has stolen property to the value of five dollars? The punishment is out of all proportion to the amount of plunder, and teaches the offender nothing except hatred for the power that is robbing him far more than he robbed the merchant or householder. He will come out of prison with about every chance in favor of his becoming a criminal in perpetuity or a homeless vagabond. But if society said to him, “See here, Brown, this is not a fair deal; Smith did not owe you anything and you should not have taken his property. Pay him five dollars and deposit the cost of collection and you may go about your business, and may it be a fairer business than this last enterprise of yours.” My impression is that this would be fully as effective, to say the least, in restraining Brown from further depredations and in deterring others as would his imprisonment for a year, and it would be worlds cheaper for society, besides leaving Brown free to work for the support of his family. But, says the critic, suppose Brown has no money to pay Smith and the cost of collection? That would mean that to the cost of collection would be added the item for his keep while he was earning the money. The important consideration is that it would be impressed upon him that society was not seeking vengeance, but trying to secure restitution to the wronged person. A man cannot restore the life he has taken, do you say? True, but may it not be that he can, to some extent, take the place of his victim as a provider for the helpless? And if he steals much, disposes of what he has taken, and is too old to make entire, or any, restitution through labor for the robbed, I do not see that the principle of restitution is invalidated through his inability to give back what he has taken. In the case of the murderer, no one is benefited by his execution, save the taxpayer, and I doubt if even he is in the long run, while setting the murderer to help support the children of his victim is better for them than the legal killing of the murderer, and may at once give back to the taxpayer a part at least of the expense incident to keeping the murderer alive, by reducing his bill for the support of pauper children.
CC.140 I am not unaware that our courts to-day often make the return of stolen property the basis of clemency to the prisoner, but I do not think, so far as my observation goes, that the judge takes enough pains to impress the fact in its relation to the principle upon the understanding of the culprit. And assuredly the principle is not applied in the case of other crimes than larceny.
Reason Guides from the Old to the New

It is evident to almost every deep-thinking mind that the present order of things must pass away. The old thought must perish and with it the old life. If we are to have a new religion we are to have also a new morality, and if a new morality, then a new social fabric. To many this outlook is alarming. A bloody revolution appears and they shrink back with horror. Even if the past is unsatisfactory, they dare not welcome the future.
This unnecessary dread arises from the impression that the changes will be wrought by an appeal to brute force. This has been the method of the past. Ideas have been victorious by the sword.
But the method of the future is as different from that of the past as are its ideas and hopes. There will be no appeal to force; this is a miserable way to settle any dispute. True liberty dwells in reason; in that it finds its sovereign. Brute force should be resorted to only as a means of self-defense; then it is entirely justifiable, otherwise not. Aggressive brute force is the worst enemy of reform. It may kill the tyrant, but it cannot unfold the true life of the race. It is by human reason that the battle is to be won. None will be compelled, even to that which is for one’s own good, for thus the deepest good of all is destroyed. Only that is good finally which is freely chosen. The highest good of everything is the freedom wherein it is attained. To force reform at the point of the bayonet is to make void its noblest possibility. There can be no true reform except it flows through the reason of humanity and builds its throne in the light of that reason. This is the transcendent beauty of the new ideals – that they appeal solely to the mind of man. They want no cannon at their back: no thunders of artillery. In moral glory only do they shine. Their insignia is that of the intellectual wealth of the world.
The curse of all past efforts even for good has been this constant appeal to arms. It has never settled any question and it never will. The triumphs of the future must be of the perfect reason. They may come amid the storm of mental conflict, but in the bosom of that storm will rest the sunshine of golden days. The wings of progress are the pinions of the heaven-exalted genius. Away with the sword! Stir the thoughts of men; keep the tides of reason flowing; let knowledge be unshackled. Repulse encroachment if need be, but beyond that let no stroke be made. After self-defense there must be only oral action – the prowess of the intellect of men. – Samuel P. Putnam. [Online editor’s note: Reformer and secularist Samuel Porter Putnam (1838-1896). – RTL]

                          Two angels guide
The path of man, both aged and yet young,
As angels are, ripening through endless years.
On one he leans – some call her Memory,
And some Tradition; and her voice is sweet
With deep mysterious accords. The other,
Floating above, holds down a lamp, which streams
A light divine and searching on the earth,
Compelling eyes and footsteps. Memory yields,
Yet clings with loving cheek [Online editor’s note: this should be “loving check.” – RTL], and shines anew
Reflecting all the rays of that bright lamp
Our angel Reason holds. We had not walked
But for Tradition. We walk evermore
To higher paths by brightening Reason’s lamp.
                                   – George Eliot. [Online editor’s note: from Eliot’s Spanish Gypsy. – RTL]

New York: Published by Edwin C. Walker,
at 244 West One Hundred and Forty-third Street,
in November, Nineteen Hundred and Four.

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